Monday, June 17, 2013
Will in Scarlet
Thank you NetGalley for a free ARC of the latest Matthew Cody book! The freeness of this book did not influence my opinions.
William Shackley is the son of a wealthy land lord in service to King Richard. At first, his life is all lessons, diplomacy, and the occasional trick on his Nanny, but when it is reported that King Richard has been imprisoned, and Will's father with him, and that Prince John is taking the throne, diplomacy becomes the main focus of Will's life. But when he justifiably attacks the lackey of the vile Sir Guy, the whole castle irrupts and Will must flee. Instead of fleeing to France with his mother, Will ends up with the Merry Men where he plots to kill Sir Guy, befriends ne'er-do-wells, sees England for what it really is, and awakens a legend.
On the surface, this is a retelling of Robin Hood, but Rob, as he prefers to be known, isn't the central character. Will and the miller's daughter masquerading as a boy, Much, are the two primary characters. For Will's part, he grows from being a spoiled and sheltered lordling to a fine and generous bandit. The first scene in which he becomes Will the wolfslayer really foreshadows the whole story quite well, in that he is fighting an enemy that he does not know or understand and he might be fighting against the wrong one. The losses that Will experiences are difficult, but all of that makes him into the young man that he is by the end of the book.
Much has her own secrets that she is hiding. As a girl living amongst bandits, she gets protection, but it also seems that she sees things the other miss and having her narration adds to the fullness of the story.
Rob is a secondary character seen through Will and Much's eyes. Once he finally sobers up (and it's not until he's truly good and sober that the reader even realizes who he is), he becomes the arrogant and boastful leader of the Merry Men. Honestly, I would say he is a little like Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow--lighthearted and witty, yet determined to reach his goal. Little John is a kind soul in a giant's body, and the rest of the lot seem to be cowardly scoundrels, but likable enough.
I would say that Will in Scarlet is another good Caudill candidate. This book would appeal to grades 5-7, and since it is told in both Will and Much's voice, it should appeal to boys and girls. Also, while it alludes to drinking wine and rough language, it never actually shows those activities, rather it uses the type of Shakespearian insult that are more funny than crude.
While I don't think that Will in Scarlet necessarily needs a sequel, I think one will be on the way. But if not, the story ends in quite a satisfying manner, so either way, readers will enjoy. It is nice sometimes to read a book that ends cleanly enough that you are pleased, but leaves just a few questions. More like a vague "and then what happens?" rather than a frantic "I must know what happens next!!"
I think that might be a key difference between children's and YA lit. In children's lit, there is more resolution between plot points, with enough room for more adventures, but in YA, the author ends a book by saying "That's when the shooting started" (Thanks Veronica Roth).
All in all, Will in Scarlet is a fun historical fiction (heavy on the fiction) adventure story. And this reader looks forward to a new adventure down the road.